In a new study, researchers found that eating mostly plant-based foods and fewer animal-based foods may mean better heart health and a lower risk of dying from a heart attack and stroke.
The research was conducted by a team from Johns Hopkins University.
The team reviewed a database of food intake from more than 10,000 middle-aged U.S. adults.
These people were monitored from 1987 through 2016 and did not have heart disease at the start of the study.
The researchers found people who ate the most plant-based foods overall had a 16% lower risk of having heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, and other conditions.
The people also have a 32% lower risk of dying from heart disease and a 25% lower risk of dying from any cause compared to those who ate the least amount of plant-based foods.
The team says people don’t have to give up foods derived from animals completely, but eating a larger proportion of plant-based foods and a smaller proportion of animal-based foods may help reduce the risk of having a heart attack, stroke or other types of heart disease.
The findings underscore the importance of focusing on the daily diet.
There might be some variability in terms of individual foods, but to reduce heart disease risk, people should eat more vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fruits, legumes, and fewer animal-based foods.
Previous research about the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, emphasized the same food items.
This is one of the first studies to examine the proportion of plant-based versus animal-based dietary patterns in the general population.
Future work on plant-based diets needs to examine whether the quality of plant foods—healthy versus less healthy—impacts heart disease and death risks.
Researchers also say the American Heart Association recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet.
In addition, people need to choose foods rich in nutrition and low in added sugars, sodium (salt), cholesterol and artery-clogging saturated and trans fats.
Unprocessed foods, like fresh fruit, vegetables and grains are good choices.
The lead author of the study is Casey M. Rebholz, Ph.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.
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